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New book ‘Challenger: A True Story of Heroism & Disaster on the Edge of Space’ out today

Weaving together an incredibly detailed and compelling narrative of NASA’s tragic space shuttle Challenger disaster, a new non-fiction account of the historic event arrives today from Adam Higginbotham, the New York Times bestselling author of “Midnight in Chernobyl.”

Challenger: A True Story of Heroism & Disaster on the Edge of Space” (Avid Reader Press, Simon & Schuster) is a gripping 576-page chronicle of the shuttle program from its inception before, and in the wake of, the Apollo moon missions, which made a final lunar landing in December of 1972.

Told with a remarkable storytelling flair, Higginbotham’s exhaustive volume is a brilliant effort of investigative journalism that stands as a riveting examination of the complex costs of innovation, imagination, political positioning, clashing personalities, mismanagement and a series of fateful internal NASA decisions that partly led to the spacecraft’s sudden destruction upon liftoff.

Related: Space shuttle Challenger and the disaster that changed NASA forever

Here’s the official synopsis:

“On January 28, 1986, just seventy-three seconds into flight, the space shuttle Challenger broke apart over the Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven people on board. Millions of Americans witnessed the tragic deaths of a crew including New Hampshire schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. Like the assassination of JFK, the Challenger disaster is a defining moment in 20th century history — one that forever changed the way America thought of itself and its optimistic view of the future. Yet the full story of what happened, and why, has never been told. Until now.

“Based on extensive archival research and meticulous, original reporting, ‘Challenger: A True Story of Heroism & Disaster on the Edge of Space’ follows a handful of central protagonists—including each of the seven members of the doomed crew—through the years leading up to the accident, a detailed account of the tragedy itself, and into the investigation that followed. It’s a compelling tale of optimism and promise undermined by political cynicism and cost-cutting in the interests of burnishing national prestige; of hubris and heroism; and of an investigation driven by leakers and whistleblowers determined to bring the truth to light. Throughout, there are the ominous warning signs of a tragedy to come, recognized but then ignored, and later hidden from the public.

(Image credit: Simon & Schuster)

“Higginbotham reveals the history of the shuttle program, the lives of men and women whose stories have been overshadowed by the disaster as well as the designers, engineers and test pilots who struggled against the odds to get the first shuttle into space. A masterful blend of riveting human drama and fascinating and absorbing science, Challenger brings to life a turning point in history—and the result is an even more complex and astonishing story than we remember.”

No matter where you were on that sad winter day, the monumental loss of the first space shuttle and its valiant crew of seven astronauts is an indelible memory forever forged into our national collective consciousness. With its emotional scope and exacting resonance, writer Adam Higginbotham has truly crafted the ultimate tribute to the Challenger and its place in space exploration history.

“Challenger: A True Story of Heroism & Disaster on the Edge of Space” lands on May 14, 2024.

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